Zwanze day is an annual event held by Brussels lambic brewery, Cantillon. In the Flemish dialect, the word zwanzen means ‘to joke’ or ‘to kid’ and in the Brussels dialect, zwanze refers to the semi-sarcastic style of humour that Brussels people are known for. For Zwanze day, Cantillon release a small batch beer that is more experimental in nature than traditional lambics, reflecting the zwanze humour of the Belgian capital. In September of each year, the beer is released to a limited and carefully selected group of pubs and bars around the world, to be enjoyed on Zwanze day.
The 2018 Zwanze beer, Manneken Pise, was a blend of lambics aged for two years in Amarone, Chianti and Sangiovese wine barrels. The result was a funky, fruity beer with a dry, wine-like character and strong notes of citrus fruits and mango. A beer worthy of the event.
Zwanze day in Brum
This year, Birmingham bottle shop and taproom Clink was chosen as just one of five venues in Great Britain to host Zwanze day. In the last two years, the landscape of independent bars, breweries and restaurants in Birmingham has changed dramatically for the better. Not only is a strong sense of community forming amongst business owners and beer enthusiasts, but murmurs of the great things happening in the West Midlands are starting to get out to the wider world.
The fact that Birmingham was chosen ahead of a Leeds venue speaks volumes, both of Clink’s dedication to lambic and mixed-fermentation styles, but also of where the beer scene in Birmingham is at.
Leeds is undoubtedly a great city for beer tourism, for example, North Bar in the city centre has recently been named best Beer Bar in the British Pub Awards for the second year in a row, and this is just one of the outstanding bars in a relatively small area. To me, that Clink was picked alongside Beermerchants Tap in London, The Pilcrow Pub in Manchester, Moor Beer in Bristol and Six⁰ North in Aberdeen is proof that England’s second city Is finally starting to be viewed as an up and coming beer destination. By Cantillon, none the less…
Since Clink is a relatively small venue, they held three ticketed sessions where attendees received a limited-edition glass and a pour of Manneken Pise. On the remaining taps, this year’s Zwanze day beer was complimented by a selection of special lambics from Cantillon, Tilquin and Boon. Obviously, I bought a ticket for the limited edition Zwanze beer, but I was probably equally excited for the draft version of Tilquin Quetsche, which doesn’t find its way to Brum very often.
On the night, Clink was full to the rafters with hoards of familiar faces. Upstairs, downstairs and spilling on to the street were the bar owners, bartenders, brewers, beer bloggers, podcasters and lambic lovers of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands.
We’ve got a cool little community happening, and it’s getting bigger.